Afghan Opium Production rises for a fifth year: UN

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    In News

    • According to a United Nations report, Afghanistan’s opium production crossed the 6,000-ton mark for the fifth straight year.

    Key Findings

    • Output grew 8% this year and incentives for cultivation have risen as prices have picked up amid soaring poverty and food insecurity.
    • Accounting for some 87% of the global production, despite a two-decade effort by the US to deter illegal production of the drug in the country. 
    • Income from opiates in Afghanistan amounted to some $1.8-$2.7 billion in 2021.
    • This trend is undermining efforts to stop the war-torn nation from being the hub of the global drug trade.

    Afghanistan and Opium

    • Largest producer: Afghanistan is the world’s largest opium producer, accounting for some 87% of the global production, despite a $9 billion, two-decade effort by the US to deter illegal production of the drug in the country. 
    • Economy dependent on opium: The crop also makes up the largest share of illegal activity in the country where the economy has been long dependent on foreign aid and opium sales.
      • Income from opiates in Afghanistan amounted to some $1.8-$2.7 billion in 2021
      • However, much larger sums are accrued along illicit drug supply chains outside Afghanistan.

    Global Scenario

    • The supply source for this huge underground economy is now concentrated in three areas: 
      • Afghanistan, 
      • South-East Asia (mostly Myanmar) and 
      • Latin America (Mexico and Colombia). 
    • Together, they supply nearly all the world’s illicit opium and heroin, but Afghanistan stands out among this group, accounting for around 90% of global illicit opium production in recent years. 

    Impact on India

    • Rising health costs: 
      • Among illicit narcotics, opiates are also the most costly in terms of treatment, medical care and, arguably, drug-related violence. 
      • In addition, heroin is the drug most associated with injection, which brings about a host of acute and chronic health problems, including the transmission of blood-borne diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. 
      • 45% of Heroin in India originates from Afghanistan.
    • Stability and security: 
      • Beyond its health impact, the illicit opiate industry also has a detrimental effect on stability and security in a number of places, including through the funding it provides for insurgents in production areas, particularly in Afghanistan. 
    • Terrorist angle:
      • There is ‘deep concern about links between illicit drug production, trafficking and involvement of terrorist groups, criminals and transnational organized crime.’

    Reasons Behind the Drug Menace in India

    • Misguided Youth and Peer Pressure psychology
    • Lack of awareness about socio-legal and health consequences
    • Proximity with Golden Crescent and Golden Triangle:
      • Golden Triangle: It includes the regions of Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand. 
        • It is Southeast Asia’s main opium-producing region and one of the oldest narcotics supply routes to Europe and North America.
      • Golden Crescent: It includes Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan.
        • It is a principal global site for opium production and distribution.       

    Steps Taken by Government to Curb the problem

    • International Cooperation:
      • India has signed 26 bilateral pacts, 15 MoUs and 2 agreements on security cooperation with different countries.
      • They all will cooperate and work for combating the illicit trafficking of narcotics, drugs and psychotropic substances, besides chemical precursors.
    • Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB): 
      • It coordinated with various international organisations for sharing information and intelligence to combat transnational drug trafficking. 
      • They included the 
        • SAARC Drug Offences Monitoring Desk; 
        • BRICS; 
        • Colombo Plan; 
        • ASEAN Senior Officials on Drug Matters (ASOD); 
        • Bay of Bengal Initiative For Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Co-operation (BIMSTEC); 
        • United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and 
        • the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).
    • Narco Coordination Centre (NCORD) Mechanism:
      • Aim: To coordinate among various Central and State agencies for effective drug law enforcement.
      • Set up by the MHA in 2016. 
      • This NCORD system has been restructured into a four-tier scheme up to the district level on July 29, 2019, for better coordination.
    • Launch of e-portal ‘SIMS’ (Seizure Information Management System) in 2019:
      • Purpose: For digitisation of pan-India drug seizure data
      • Launched by the MHA for all the drug law enforcement agencies under the mandate of Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS).
    • Multi-Agency Approach:
      • Besides the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, the following are also empowered under the NDPS Act for making drug seizures: 
        • the Border Security Force, 
        • Sashastra Seema Bal, 
        • Indian Coast Guard, 
        • Railway Protection Force and 
        • the National Investigation Agency. 
      • In order to strengthen surveillance along the border for preventing cross-border drug smuggling, the forces were using the latest gadgets and equipment.

    Way Ahead

    • International cooperation: Foster international cooperation for fighting the enduring problem of drug trafficking. The development of international accountability mechanisms and best practices would greatly increase interception capacity. 
    • Global Monitoring: Enhance expert access to the dark web in order to take down online markets and platforms. Implement real-time data monitoring systems for promptly detecting and addressing drug market changes. 
    • People-centred Approach: Implement an integrated, people-centred and human-rights based approach to empowering African societies to develop sustainable solutions to drug use.
    • Public-private Partnerships: Improve government response to drug trafficking on the internet by forging public/private partnerships with internet service providers, tech companies, shipping and mailing companies. 
    • Awareness-Raising and Communication: Use fact-based information to raise awareness of the potential harm from non-medical use of cannabis. Need to close the gap between perception and reality by educating young people and safeguarding public health.

    Know about Opium

    • Opium comes from the sap in unripe poppy-seed pods. 
    • The sap dries into a brown latex that contains alkaloids which produce a host of narcotic and pharmaceutical drugs, including heroin, methamphetamine, morphine and codeine.

    Image Courtesy: Opium 

    Source: IE